Salut’s French corner: pity poor Arles-Avignon

Thank heavens the Premier’s back: our Blackburn Rovers preview will appear soon …


Nice remain our team of choice, thanks to the Sunderland link established by Eric Roy’s position as coach, in Ligue 1. They have slipped of late, losing twice after a bright start, but gained a useful 0-0 draw at the improving (if still charmless, on account of their fans) Paris St Germain. But spare a thought, in our occasional look at French football, for the bottom club …

Pretty name for a football club, summoning images of an exotic bullfighting history (Arles) – la corrida in France is just as bloody, and therefore controversial, as the Spanish version – and a nursery rhyme about dancing on the bridge (Avignon).

That, sadly, is all that is attractive about the present plight of AC Arles-Avignon.

Things have not exactly been easy since the romantic promotion of last season, the highest – and perhaps only obvious – achievement in a club history of almost 100 years. This is how the Ligue 1 bottom four looks:

17 Olympique Lyonnais 8 2 2 4 7 11 -4 8
18 AS Nancy Lorraine 8 2 2 4 9 15 -6 8
19 RC Lens 8 1 2 5 7 17 -10 5
20 AC Arles Avignon 8 0 0 8 3 20 -17 0

Today, the new Bosnian coach Faruk Hadzibegic takes his embattled team up to Brittany to play against fifth-placed Brest, best known of late for the president’s admirable ban on his players isolating themselves in earphones and pulled down baseball caps when in public and demonstrably on club duty.

With or without iPod music to fire them up, Brest should easily inflict yet another defeat on Arles-Avignon. But can a top-flight team go through an entire season without getting as much as a draw? Would Arles-Avignon be able to list such an eventuality in the currently empty list of honours? Or are we worrying too soon on their behalf?

Perhaps a mighty comeback is about to start and Arles-Avignon will end the season jostling for safety with our hated Girondins de Bordeaux, fans clambering for tickets at the 17,000-place stadium. That’s more like it. So with apologies to Eric Roy – good luck against second top St Etienne tomorrow, Eric (Rennes are still in first place, and still counting all that money from us for Gyan) – let’s start rooting, if only a little, for poor little Arles-Avignon.

Monsieur Salut!

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